8 Vegetarian Foods that are rich in Vitamin D
Vitamin D, or the Sunshine Vitamin – plays a quintessential in our health. The only Vitamin that is dependent on sun exposure for its creation and absorption into the bloodstream, this essential vitamin has an important role to play in almost all our bodily functions in some form or the other.
A minimum of 30-minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM, at least twice a week is recommended by NIH to boost the Vitamin D intake. Unfortunately, almost 50% of the population worldwide is today afflicted with a Vitamin D deficiency. The risk of a deficiency for vegetarians is even higher.
It is hence recommended that everyone in the age-group of 1-70 years should have at least the reference daily intake of 600IU of the vitamin through their diet. If you are older or don’t get enough sunlight, this intake value should be increased to at least 1,000 IU per day.
Why do we need a Vitamin D rich diet?
It wasn’t until recently that research and studies ascertained and emphasised on the value of Vitamin D for our bodies. And, what was even more unknown was the fact that its synthesis is dependent on exposure to the sun. With increased indoor activities, centrally-airconditioned homes and workplaces, the increased trend of low-fat diets, etc., this essential exposure to sunlight is limited for us.
Also, the bent towards a vegan or vegetarian diet further puts people at risk, as the most prevalent sources of this essential vitamin are animal-produces. Given this way of life, it is becoming increasingly important to introduce a Vitamin D enriched diet in our lives to ensure a healthy lifestyle and a fitter body and mind.
When do you know that your diet is not providing you Vitamin D adequately?
A Vitamin D deficiency is linked to several chronic diseases including digestive, auto-immune, and mental ailments. From bones to teeth, all need Vitamin D for healthy and proper functioning. The auto-immune system needs this essential nutrient to control its hormonal signalling for the osteo-system in the body. If you suffer from any of the following problems, it’s time to take a closer look at your diet and add the following Vitamin D enriched foods to your diet immediately.
- Tooth decay and gum diseases
- Digestive conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome
- Auto-immune conditions
- Sleep apnoea coupled with snoring or teeth grinding
- Type-II diabetes
- Joint problems such as arthritis, unexplained soreness in muscles and joints
- Memory disorders such as brain fog, etc.
While several foods are enriched with Vitamin D naturally, we can classify these foods under two categories:
Perhaps, besides fortified foods and sunlight, mushrooms are the only plant-based source of this Vitamin. Mushrooms can provide up to 130–450 IU of Vitamin D per 100 grams.
Just like humans, mushrooms synthesise Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. You need to place a mushroom under the sun for about 20 minutes, and it will be ready with a good level of Vitamin D. However, it should be borne in mind that the type of Vitamin D that mushrooms make is primarily D2 and not the D3 class. Though D2 helps raise the blood levels of Vitamin D, it is not as effective as D3.
Two of the mushroom varieties that can help with Vitamin D intake are:
1. Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are a type of edible mushrooms that come fortified with iron, Vitamin B and Vitamin D. This mushroom variety provides about 3% of the dietary value of Vitamin D, which may increase significantly in case of greater exposure to sunlight during growth.
2. White mushrooms
White mushrooms that also go by the name of button mushrooms are an excellent source of Vitamin D providing for almost 22.7 IU (or 6%) of the dietary value of Vitamin D.
B. Fortified Foods
The other category of foods for vegetarians that can be a good source of Vitamin D, besides the natural sources, is fortified foods. Here are the fortified foods that can enable to boost the Vitamin D levels in the bodies of vegetarians.
1. Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk is an excellent source of many essential nutrients including calcium, riboflavin and phosphorus. Besides this, in several geographies, cow’s milk comes fortified with about 130 IU per 237 ml of the Vitamin D nutrient, which makes up for 22% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D. Besides cow’s milk, certain milk products such as whole milk, buttermilk, low-fat milk, etc. can add up to 30% of the dietary value per glass of serving.
Ghee is an excellent source of Vitamin D, especially one that is derived from milk obtained from grass-fed, organically raised cows.
3. Soy Products
Soy products like fortified soy milk, soy yoghurt, fortified tofu and soy chunks are a rich source of Vitamin D. These products are plant-based milk substitutes and come fortified with Vitamin D and many other essential vitamins and minerals that you can find in dairy products. Readily available in the market, these soy products typically contain 99-119 IU of Vitamin D per serving (237ml) that equals around 20% of the recommended dietary intake.
4. Fortified Orange Juice
For those who have lactose intolerance (which accounts for almost 75% of the people worldwide!) or have a milk allergy, dairy sources of Vitamin D are out of the question. For such people, several brands offer fortified orange juice which is fortified with Vitamin d and other essential nutrients that one derives out of milk. Such fortified orange juice provides almost 142 IU of Vitamin D per 237ml (an approximate 24% of the recommended daily intake value. The plus of consumption of these juices is their being rich sources of Vitamins C & A besides Vitamin D.
5. Cereal and Oatmeal
Though these fortified cereals and oatmeal are not that great source of Vitamin D, when compared to other natural sources of the vitamin, they are still good enough to boost the Vitamin D intake. Certain cereals and oatmeal variants come fortified with different vitamins including Vitamin D. A single serving of ½ cup of these can provide you anywhere between 55 and 154 IU of Vitamin D (i.e. approximately 26% of the recommended daily intake.
6. Ricotta cheese
While you might learn to the contrary, it’s not dairy products like yoghurt and cheese, but whole milk that provides Vitamin D. However, one variety of cheese – Ricotta Cheese – is a little different. It is the only whole milk by-product that provides almost five times greater levels of Vitamin D as compared to other cheese varieties. One of the best vitamin D nutrient source for vegetarians, every serving of ricotta cheese is enriched with 25 IU of this essential nutrient.
While spending time outside under the sun could be the best way to get your daily intake of Vitamin D, sometimes sufficient exposure is not achievable by many people. Including these food items in your diet can help you avert or fight a Vitamin D deficiency to an extent, thereby ensuring a healthier life.